Thursday, 27 November 2008

For all remote drinkers in search of Aberlour a'Bunadh...

...I've just ordered some (best bargain in malt whisky, IMHO) - and some Glenfarclas 105 - from the excellent Whisky Exchange site. Special recession offers, too. If you dig deep they have some really amazing things, such as Lochranza Founders' Reserve blend for £10.99. While stocks last.

Mind you, there's always the Co-op...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


So, Scotland's favourite whisky. I have a bottle, a present from Aunt Lily. Normally, I avoid blends, but tonight, having partaken of some Railroad Red South African plonk, six quid from the Ollaberry Shop (not bad, actually...imagine the smell of Glasgow's underground system laced with Ribena) I felt the need to...progress. And so here we are.

And immediately I'm back at my first journalistic job, in 1978, working for Project Scotland, a construction industry weekly. Fitzroy Place, Glasgow, just along Sauchiehall Street from what is now Mother India. Harry. Harry was office manager, running, on behalf of Irish firm Morton Publications (no relation), not just Project Scotland but Offshore Oil Weekly. I ended up working for both.

Anyway, Harry had this theory. Famous Grouse (his favourite whisky, always available in the bottom drawer of his desk) was the most popular whisky in Scotland because of its name. 'Grrrrouse', he would say. 'People like saying it. GrRRRouse.'

The roughness of that glottal 'rrrrr' is in the whisky, actually, with the presence of Islay malts. Not so you'd notice by sniffing. What you always smell with whisky, first off, is the warehouse. The oak. The ash and the evaporation. But dig deep, swill it around your labial fricatives, and there they are, those peaty spirits. But not overhwhelmingly so. It's full of cheap grain spirit, like all blends. But it's carefully and well made, so it doesn't rip your consonants and vowels to pieces. Not at first.

This is basic whisky. Relatively smooth, but essentially thin with the rattling burr of Islay some way distant. But it's palatable, and good with a pint (or half) of heavy. I'm talking about the everyday Grrrouse, by the way, not the Swedish-market Black Grouse or the other poshed-up variants. Fakery, though I'm keen to try the Black stuff, all peated up. Why not?

But if we're talking basic blends - and you can get a lot cheaper - there are better, maltier, more complex drams: Black Bottle and Baillie Nicol Jarvie spring to mind.

But hey, it's no' bad. Cheers, Harry!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Why I'm back writing about the hard stuff...and forty-year-old Glenfarclas 105...hefty!

The demise of the Nippy Sweeties blog, along with two whisky columns I was writing (for the US publication Scottish Life and The Scots Magazine) was provoked by several things: exhaustion, unhealthiness, the need to complete a novel and a complete absence of anything worth saying.

Now, with the book finished (Serpentine: due for publication next June by Mainstream) and some rest and recuperation, I'm back thinking (and writing) about drinking. In print, too, as a contributor and regular columnist for Unfiltered, the superb new magazine of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

All this and The Malt and Barley Revue - the hour-long musical show I've put together about whisky, Scotland and inebriation - has been a quiet success this past summer. My book Spirit of Adventure, republished, is selling well in the runup to Christmas, and is available here.

So I'm back in the whisky blogosphere. I'll be publishing some of the print-only articles from the past couple of years, and, from first principles, some tasting notes.

And news as it comes in. Robert Ransom from Glenfarclas sent me the following, and as the 105 10-year-old is one of my all-time favourites, I'm happy to say...Slainte!

Speyside, November 2008; J. & G. Grant are pleased to announce the release of Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Aged 40 Years, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first bottling of Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky.

The first commercially available cask strength whisky of the modern age was born in 1968 when George S. Grant, the fourth generation of the Grant family to own and manage Glenfarclas, bottled a single cask straight from the warehouse, and sent the bottles to family and friends as Christmas gifts. By chance the strength of the cask George S. Grant selected was 105 British Proof, and along with the name of the distillery, this was all the information he detailed on the hand written label. By the end of January the recipients of the gifts requested further bottles, George S. Grant obliged, and Glenfarclas 105 has become a much enjoyed expression of Glenfarclas.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first bottling of Glenfarclas 105; J. & G. Grant have created this special limited edition bottling of Glenfarclas 105 at 40 Years Old, and at 60% Vol.. With only a couple of casks of the right style, age, and strength available, the Glenfarclas 105 Aged 40 Years truly is a limited edition. There are only 893 bottles available.

George S. Grant’s grandson, also George S. Grant, the company’s Brand Ambassador,

commented, ‘Dark and mysterious in colour, with hints of toffee and sherry, a sip reveals a powerful, yet smooth and elegant whisky. It has taken three generations of my family to create this extraordinary dram.’

Glenfarclas 105 Aged 40 Years has been well received, scoring 96 out of 100 in Jim Murray’s 2009 Whisky Bible. This limited edition is available from specialist whisky retailers in the UK, Europe and Asia, and retails for £550.00 at the Glenfarclas Distillery Visitor centre.